The classic herd mentality of Madison Avenue and its follow-the-leader approach to advertising has hit a new low with its gratuitous use of service men and women. One hopes the bottom has been hit with a television ad that depicted a wounded serviceman, with a prosthetic leg from the knee down, at an animal rescue shelter with his girlfriend picking out a puppy. It was so over-the-top that I can’t recall what product was being shoved down our throats. I’ll guess cars.
I come from a military family. My father was a marine aviator who lost his life serving our country. I find it particularly despicable that for-profit corporations would use the pain and suffering for profit. Albeit, I am not surprised. After all, look at any corporate mission statement and you will see a paraphrased proclamation suggesting that shareholder’s wealth be maximized.
This is not to confuse with actual benefits that accrue to the military and their dependents. USAA and others offer services solely for service personnel or offer actual discounts in pricing, etc. These are useful. However, more major companies see clear worth in dousing their brands with a military tinge, marketing experts say. With a tone of cynicism, I quote Marian Salzman, chief executive officer of Havas PR in New York City, who says, “We have become a country committed to our warriors – they are the great American heroes, and regardless of our politics, we love the soldiers.”
The ideology is separated from the economics by those who need profit to filter their message. The contempt for the military that lies beneath the surface on the left, i.e., defense spending, liberal utopian thinking, soldiers kill people, et al., gets opaquely put aside to show solidarity, albeit hypocrisy, in their disdain for America by using the military to sell their wares. On point, Timothy Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, notes, “A brand could be seen to be exploitative, could be seen to be free-riding on the military imagery. So if you’re going to do this, you have to be sure there’s a fit, and you have to be sure that the message is meaningful.”
I want to empathize with the advertisers, and buy into their altruism, as the vast majority of those in the military do. In fact, 96% of those surveyed by Field Agent, agreed with the statement, “I have a more favorable opinion of companies that show public support for current and former military personnel.” One finds it difficult to juxtapose the feelings of contempt and ridicule that was faced by our returning soldiers from Vietnam in the visual media, with the gravitas extended to those warriors who come home today.
Remember my friends, forty years of a certain indoctrination have made the notion of firing shots in a revolution unlikely. This enables more public tolerance of the military by those I have been chastising. Whatever the modus operandi behind the advertising, at least the message being conveyed is correct.